11 Feb 2010

Rules Governing Government in India: An insight

Ever wondered how such a huge country like India is governed? Even wondered how the gigantic bureaucratic structure governing the country is organised? If yes, then perhaps you may feel enriched by this discussion. In this post we discuss the organisational pattern on which the Government of India is based in a defined legal set-up under the constitutional obligations. 

Part V of the Constitution of India provides for the Union Executive. Article 53 states that the Executive power of the Union of India is vested in the President of India and would be exercised by him either directly or through his subordinate officers under his name. Article 73 specifies that the power of the Union Executive vests and extends to all areas on which the Parliament is competent to make laws. Thereafter Article 74 states that there would be a Council of Ministers to aid-and-advice the President on the exercise of his powers. In practice [as held has been declared by the Supreme Court in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab], the President of India is bound by the advice of the Council, as headed by the Prime Minister. 

Article 77 prescribes the manner in which the Business of Government of India is to be conducted. It states that the President shall make Rules for convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India. It is in exercise of this power that the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 have been promulgated whereunder the business of the Government of India is distributed to be catered to by the Ministries and Departments as specified in the Rules. The First Schedule to these Rules enumerates the list of the various Ministries that have been constituted by the President along with the various Departments that form a part of such Ministries. The Second Schedule is much more detailed in as much as it lists out all the possible subjects on which Government of India may interact upon and puts them under one Department or the other. This is how each of the Department is assigned work and gets jurisdiction to cater to the business of the Government of India under the respective Minister. 

The 1961 Rules constitute the broad framework upon which the Government of India is organised. However they just mark the beginning of the drawing of hierarchal designs for each of the Department again frames its Rules for proper conduct of the business in the respective Department. Let us take the example one important functionary of the Government to this regard. The Office of the Controller General of Accounts finds its place under the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. the Controller's website states that "Ministries /Departments approach the Controller General of Accounts for advice on accounting procedures for new schemes, programmes or activities undertaken by them. The advice rendered by the CGA generally covers aspects related to maintenance of accounts, collection of receipts and it's crediting into Government account, release of payment and it's accounting, creation and operation of funds within Government accounts. The instructions of the Controller General of Accounts on Accounting matter is binding on the Ministries / Department. This Section is also responsible for administration and maintenance of Civil Accounts Manual."

This enormous task of ensuring that each rupee spent is accounted for is ensured by the detailed Rules of the CGA office. This is why the Office of the Controller has prescribed a 511 page thick Civil Accounts Manuel. This Manuel contains the details instructions and procedures to be followed by the officers of the Department and other Departments in meeting out the expenditures. Besides this Manuel, the CGA also has specified the Government Accounting Rules and other Rules to ensure the smooth flow and recording of expenditures incurred by the various Departments of the Government of India.

To take another example, the Ministry of Law and Justice comprises of the Legislative Department and the Department of Legal Affairs. Where the principal role of the Legislative Department is to advice the various Ministries of the Government of India on legal and related issues, the Department of Legal Affairs is concerned with the drafting of legislation for the Central Government. This is how broadly the Ministry is organised in these Departments with each of the Departments having a detailed organisation set-up and own rules to ensure that the business is carried out in a smooth manner. Needless to say that these Ministries and Departments comprise of officers appointed under the Presidential Seal who are conferred with various powers, privileges and immunities to carry out the functions assigned to them.

On top of all these Ministries and Departments is the Office of the Prime Minister of India (PMO). The PMO is responsible for all the transactions which are not included within the scope of work of any of the other Departments and also all those subject-matters which the Prime Minister keeps for himself. The PMO has its own work distribution for its internal affairs while also being required to ensure the smooth interplay of other Ministries and Departments and the coordination thereof. Based upon the role played by the Ministries, the Prime Minister of India advices the President who acts on such advice and it is in this pattern that the Government of India carries on the burden of providing for the over-one-billion strong country. 

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